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A tent shun

'If men and women can be trusted, without risk of infinite mischief, to meet together for religious purposes, why not also for secular?' wrote the Guardian in 1871. It was referring to a decision by St Paul's Cathedral to admit only men to its weekly lectures. Women were excluded, said the then Canon Gregory, because it would prevent the Cathedral reaching its 'special object' of men's self-improvement. 'With all respect to the excellent intentions of the Canon,' continued the newspaper, 'his explanation is no explanation at all.'

Many inside the wider church have argued that the same can be said of the St Paul's decision to close for health and safety reasons in November. The Dean was widely criticised for his handling of the tent protest, and the Canon Chancellor praised for his honourable resignation.

At Third Way we would tend to agree that the protest was a valuable one. We were happy to add our name to the statement of Christian support for the Occupy movement, which began 'As Christians, we stand alongside people of all religions and none who are resisting economic injustice with active nonviolence.' We believe that the Gospel is a challenge to an economic system that divides people one from another and separates humanity from creation.

We agree that this system is creating wealth for the few at the expense of the many and fuelling violence and environmental destruction - just as all systems we have seen so far have done, back to the days of the Old Testament when the year of Jubilee was proposed to rebalance the community's wealth.

But we have one note of caution to offer. While the New Testament warns against wealth and the storing up of treasure on earth, these warnings are made not simply for the benefit of the poor, but because of the damage wealth does to the rich. The well-off are not only expected to give to those in need, but to expect that the kingdom of heaven is not for them. At least, that is, unless they have developed new ways of forcing camels through needles.

But in any case, who are 'they'? Viewed globally, few are the people reading this who are not wealthy. Perhaps it is wisest, then, not to make declarations about the state of a rich person's soul, but to pray for it.